FREE SPEECH -- Carol Williams reports in the Los Angeles Times that Redondo Beach city officials can prohibit day laborers from soliciting
work from passing motorists, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling Wednesday in a case
that has been eyed by other cities that have sought similar
restrictions.

A lower court four years ago had ruled that the city's ordinance banning
solicitation from the street infringed on laborers' free speech rights.
Wednesday's 2-to-1 decision from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
overturned that ruling.

The city has been engaged in a legal tug-of-war with day laborers for
more than 40 years, said Michael Webb of the Redondo Beach city
attorney's office. Officials have tried to balance public complaints
about traffic snarls and sanitation with laborers' rights to pursue
employment.

The ruling was "a big victory for
the rule of law" in affirming cities' rights to restrict solicitation
that can pose safety hazards, Webb said. Other cities have followed the
case with an eye to enacting similar bans on street solicitors, he said.

Costa Mesa has a similar ban but agreed in February to suspend
enforcement until the Redondo Beach case was decided. Lake Forest
officials voted to impose the same restrictions in 2006 but withdrew the
law after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
sued, said Hector Villagra, the rights group's legal director.


Civil rights attorneys criticized the ruling, saying it was out of step
with other court decisions. They signaled that they would seek further
court review.


"This is definitely a departure from every other federal court decision
in the 9th Circuit that has examined similar ordinances and found them
unconstitutional," said Chris Newman, general counsel for the National
Day Laborer Organizing Network, which sued Redondo Beach after a 2004
crackdown. "We feel it is likely not the last word."


The majority opinion by Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, an appointee of President
George W. Bush, said cities have the right to regulate the time, place
and manner of protected speech as long as the restrictions aren't aimed
at suppressing the message. In this case, the judges said, Redondo
Beach's restrictions were aimed at protecting public safety.


Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, wrote
in her dissent that the majority "trampled upon the right of free speech
in the most traditional of public fora," referring to the streets and
sidewalks where laborers market their skills to potential employers.